Brad Brandt: Thanks Dale. You’re very kind in your words. God is so merciful in how he uses unworthy servants like me.
Dale Johnson: Amen. I’m so looking forward to our discussion today as we think about Proverbs and what the Lord has given us through that wisdom literature. Parenting is a difficult job. Parenting takes a lot of effort, a lot of work, and sometimes when we find ourselves parenting it’s honestly quite discouraging—even when we’re trying hard and want to do the right thing. It can be difficult to know how we are doing as a parent. How do we know if we’re doing things right, or if we’re doing the things that we ought to be doing?
Brad Brandt: It can be really frustrating as a parent. I can say that personally. Sherry and I had two daughters that are now grown and they’re married and we have grandchildren. Also as a pastor, I’ve seen the challenges that folks deal with to know, “Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right kinds of things?” Our God is so gracious. One of the ways he has blessed us is through giving us a resource that helps us to assess how we are doing as a parent particularly, and that has to do with the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is wisdom literature, and one of the great themes in the book is this matter of family relationships. Proverbs can be a real encouragement, a real tool, to encourage parents to assess how they are doing. I found it to be a really wonderful place to go in the Scriptures personally as well as when working with folks in counseling.
Dale Johnson: One of the things that has always been interesting to me when we look at Proverbs is that Proverbs teaches us particularly about parenting, and even the aim of parenting when we think about providing wisdom. Solomon is talking to his sons. That really gives us the aim of what parenting is to be about. We can get so off today when we think about wanting our kids to be successful in all these different things. We want to focus so much on our intellect and that sort of thing. But Proverbs really hones in on how we are to think about parenting. So what is so significant about Proverbs (particularly as we think through Chapters 1-7) where Solomon writes to his sons? What does the book have to say to parents and those who are trying to help parents as well?
Brad Brandt: I remember back when our girls were young and I was studying the book of Proverbs. The words, “my son,” or “my sons,” jumped off the page as I was reading and I circled them about 15 times. You see those words in the first seven chapters and I started thinking about what subjects this father talks to his sons about, and it became an important curriculum that I needed to address with our children and that really was a sense of hope and encouragement. These are the things that God says through his servant here in the book of Proverbs that need to be addressed in order for children to be prepared to go out into the real world. That was really helpful for me and that’s what I like to talk about. Those subjects are really encouraging for parents to think about. The curriculum, basically, is those areas, but the assignment is really interesting to see in Proverbs 1:8, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” It’s a real practical assignment: talk and teach. And then the child’s responsibility is to listen and apply. Sometimes I think we can complicate it too much.
Dale Johnson: That’s true. One thing as we think about the simplicity of what Solomon is saying is that sometimes what makes parenting difficult is when we feel like that saying and requirement of our children is on repeat a thousand times a day. I’m sure you’re thinking back to the time when you had little kids in the house. We still have little kids in our home and we want to obey that. It can be very frustrating at times, when you feel like, “Man, I’ve taught this thing for the 1,000th time and at some point surely we can get it.” Can you talk for a second about what it takes just being diligent, as Solomon talks about, to consistently teach and train your children?
Brad Brandt: Parenting is certainly for the long haul, isn’t it? It’s not something that we do in a week. When I look at what I see in Proverbs, those subjects that he addresses with his sons: we must teach about authority (Proverbs 1:8), we must teach about temptation and peer pressure (Proverbs 1:10), priorities (Proverbs 2), obedience (Proverbs 3), which is touching on what you just asked. This wise father saw that it was important to teach his children about obedience. It doesn’t just happen. God’s discipline (Proverbs 3), discernment and decision-making (Proverbs 4), the importance of learning (Proverbs 4), teaching about choices (Proverbs 4), heart issues (Proverbs 4), resisting sexual temptation is a huge theme that this father addresses (Proverbs 5, 6, and 7), and then integrity (Proverbs 6). These are really important subjects that he invested time teaching his sons about.
Dale Johnson: I think that’s important and it’s interesting to me that Solomon is talking about normal processes of life. He’s taking those situations in Proverbs 1 through 7 and he’s simply trying to apply those with his son as life unfolds. Sometimes, at least in our modern day, we think education happens through a sit-down lecture. “Okay, I taught this to my kid one time and life’s going to move on. They should have this by now and we can move on with life.” But the way Solomon is teaching us about this, and maybe you can speak about this on a practical level, is that this is something that is to be continued day after day with diligence, with vigor, using examples that happen in normal life. Give us an example, maybe even from your own days with little kids in the house, about how that diligence pays off and how we can go about in daily life teaching our kids some of the curriculum that you’re describing here.
Brad Brandt: I found it very helpful to think about how Solomon teaches his sons about sexual temptation and purity. So often today as parents we think, “Just don’t mess around and get in trouble.” That’s kind of our approach to the subject. Solomon’s approach is giving his sons these word pictures, and I think the wise parent does this. It’s a gallery of pictures: Illicit sex is like a man who scoops fire in his lap, or like an ox being led to the slaughter, or like a deer stepping in a noose, a bird in a snare. The one that I think is most vivid: Illicit sex is like a road that leads to a freshly dug grave in a cemetery, son. He can picture that. It’s not just that he needs instruction. He needs pictures so that when he’s out on his own he can think about them. Of course, that’s just on the negative. On the positive he says, “Son, sex is a wonderful gift that God’s created. It’s like a beautiful fountain coming out.” Putting these pictures into the hearts of our children is really important.
Dale Johnson: One last question as we think about the beauty of Proverbs here and the beauty of the curriculum. Sometimes people will say, “Well the Bible doesn’t give a specific methodology about counseling and sometimes about teaching your kids.” In reality God has given us the Proverbs, and it’s interesting in Proverbs 1-9, he describes how we’re to teach and train our sons. Also in the Song of Solomon, it’s a specific similar application of wisdom on how to teach and train our daughters. The writer mentions three different times that, “This word is to the virgin daughters of Jerusalem.” So the Word is full of this information. Help us to see why it’s worth it to aim at teaching our children wisdom. The things that we go through on a daily basis, as we diligently teach and train our kids and try to give them wisdom with the best of our ability. Talk about how worth it the work is once your kids grow up respond appropriately to the Lord with wisdom and keep themselves from the destruction that you’ve warned them about through God’s Word.
Brad Brandt: Wow, that’s a whole other podcast. That’s a great question. I was just thinking about a conversation I had this afternoon with my wife talking about our grandchildren and the things that they’re learning now. We could obviously talk about it theologically. It’s worth it because everything is from Him, through Him, and to Him, and God gets glory when our kids grow up to honor Him. But what an incredible source of joy it is as you raise your children and by God’s grace they then raise the next generation with a heart for him. Is it worth it, the battles that you go through? Parenting is hard, it’s messy at times, but as you see that next generation coming up it brings incredible joy to a parent’s heart to see that. It’s a great question. I’m not sure that’s a very good answer but that’s my first thought.
Dale Johnson: I think that’s helpful, and for folks who are like me who have children who are young, it’s always good to remember why we’re doing this: Honor and faithfulness to the Lord. But then when someone’s at a different life stage that the Lord has blessed, and your older days can be at peace because you’ve poured into your kids and you’ve seen the fruit of the beauty of God’s Word coming true and the wisdom that supplied. It’s super helpful to my generation to hear those words.
Brad Brandt: I want to say something else too. The way the Bible is laid out, the law, the prophets, and the writings all point to Christ and are fulfilled in Christ. I think sometimes we think about Christ’s fulfillment of the law. But when God gives us Proverbs as wisdom literature, we don’t have the ability to attain that. It’s all fulfilled in Christ. 1 Corinthians 1 says that Christ is the wisdom of God. So when we seek to implement these wonderful truths from Proverbs it’s not to attain something before God. We stand accepted in Him in Christ. But as those accepted in Christ we now have this capacity to live wise lives, and in this wisdom shows up and the practical ways are mapped out, as we’ve been talking about, in parenting. I encourage those that are parents: Your acceptance before God is in Christ and now being accepted in Christ you have this ability to look at the book of Proverbs, learn from it, and pass on these wonderful truths to the next generation.
Dale Johnson: It’s amazing to me when we sit and pause and think about the Word, all the deposits that God has given us as wisdom to move forward in daily processes of life. Brad, thanks for the information and for talking with us about how we can parent well with the wisdom that God provides. Thanks for being with us.
Brad Brandt: My joy, thanks for the privilege.